You would be hard pressed to find a hiker who has never gotten a blister. I’ve taken off my Gore-Tex boot after a twelve-mile day to find several blisters all over my feet—everywhere from atop my pinkie toe to behind my heel. They are painful, irritating, and can make the rest of your hike absolutely miserable. However, while they may seem like a natural and inevitable aspect of trekking, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Read on to learn about some of the preventative steps you can take to limit the amount of blisters you accumulate as you explore the great outdoors.
While blisters can be caused by several things—most disturbing among them are severe burns and chemical exposures—we will be focusing on foot blisters caused by friction inside of your boot. This friction is due to boots that don’t fit quite right or, more commonly, having wet feet. The more that you walk and sweat, the stickier your skin gets, which in turn increases the amount of friction caused by your socks and boots rubbing up against your foot. When this happens long enough, you will eventually develop a hot spot. A hot spot is simply a sensitive and possibly painful patch of skin that has yet to become a blister. No need to worry just yet, but here is where you want to take action.
Reduce Friction to Prevent Foot Blisters
If friction is the problem, then the obvious answer would be to reduce that friction. This can be done by using a fabric-based adhesive such as medical tape or moleskin bandages to cover the hot spot. When your foot can slide easily along the material of your footwear, you’re good to go. Be sure to change your socks though, since having damp and sweaty socks increase friction. A good strategy to employ is to have shoes that you use for hiking through streams, in the rain, or just around camp. This will ensure that your main hiking boots have time to dry out and stay dry. If you have a tendency to develop hot spots and blisters in certain areas, putting tape or mole skin on those areas before hiking will do wonders for your feet.
Friction blisters are injuries that usually resemble bubbles of various sizes that can appear in any place where your skin consistently rubs harshly against another material. When the outer layer of your skin is torn from the tissue beneath it, your cells begin to release a plasma solution that will facilitate the regrowth of connecting cells. In short, the clear fluid that is normally found inside a blister is part of the healing process. Since this usually takes place beneath the skin—hence the bubble—you are safe from a harmful bacterial infection. Piercing the bubble should be employed only under certain circumstances as bacteria and fungi can use the tear in your skin to set up shop.
Making sure that you have the right kind of footwear for your trek, that your footwear is broken in, that you bring an extra pair of camp shoes, and that you take care of hotspots before they become full-blown sores can seriously reduce your chances of developing friction blisters. So change out your socks, slap on some moleskin, and hit the trails!